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49 f


Dila V & The Odd Beats


amazing voices and thought ‘A Bulgarian choir? In the middle of Scotland?’ I went over and invited them to join us on stage. And straight away, it was just amazing.”


UK one-man Moroccan gnawa indus- try Simo Lagnawi features on the track Chubby. “We’d recorded it and just thought it lacked something. Some soul. Then we realised it just needed karabak- abs (North African metal castanets). So, we got Simo in and it was just a billion times better. Such a tiny thing, completely changed the song.”


So why Eastern music in East London?


“I think there’s a particular spirit in East London and a particular spirit in all those Eastern musics: very passionate, upbeat, expressive and also… difficult! So, musical- ly people are interested because they get to play these tough songs in weird time sig- natures and scales with quartertones. But at the same time, the music is full of stories, with a power that attracts people.”


L


ondon-based Turkish singer Dila Vardar once passed through the ranks of The Tur- bans, but is now exploring Turkish folk and psych with her own band, the aptly named Odd Beats. Originally from Istanbul, Dila came to the UK aged seventeen to study acting. She’s appeared on stage and screen since but ended up making singing her priority. “I was living in a place with lots of musi- cians,” she tells me when we talk back- stage at a festival in Brixton. “I always liked singing and was part of a choir


when I was younger, so that became my main focus. Then I sang backing vocals with Morski, who later became the singer with the Turbans. We would sing these songs which he knew in Bulgarian and I knew in Turkish. He was and still is a very big influence on the kind of music I want to make. But I’m influenced by many gen- res. I enjoy singing Cuban music, Turkish, Greek… anywhere that has the right bal- ance of pain and joy.”


The Odd Beats were originally a most- ly female, very folky quintet when they formed five years ago. “We’ve developed our own sound over the years. I met our guitarist Fathi at a festival about three and a half years ago and he’s got a very unusu- al use of the wah-wah pedal and effects when he plays. So, when he joined, we ended up doing much more psychedelic versions of Turkish folk songs.”


Ah, Turkish psych, the flavour of the month amongst crate-digging hipsters. “It is here,” agrees Dila. “In the 1970s there were lots of bands playing Turkish folk songs in psychedelic ways, but it wasn’t a big scene in Turkey, it was kind of like an underground thing. And I’ve become a lot more aware of it since I came to the UK.”


Circumstances have led her and the band to embrace those funky psychedelic sounds. “We play a lot of music festivals and we generally play 2 or 3 a.m. slots, when people want to dance and we’re playing really unusual rhythms that are not that easy to dance to unless you’re used to it. So, it kind of became our mis-


sion to make it danceable and enjoyable and make it easy for people.”


Unsurprisingly, the Odd Beats have developed a mutual appreciation society with Istanbul’s kindred musical spirits Baba Zula, although Dila’s at pains to point out that this is a comparatively recent connec- tion and when developing their sound, they were doing so in isolation. As well as Turkish musicians, The Odd Beats’ ranks have included an Italian, a Canary Islander and a Greek bassist, all bringing different influences. “We play a mixture of tradi- tional material and originals. But all given those strange Odd Beats arrangements and time signatures. It really all comes out of us jamming at six in the morning at a festival and then just seeing what happens and making a song out of it.”


Dila is a hard woman to pin down


musically. Her other ongoing project is Band Of Burns. That’s Burns as in Robert. She was introduced to his poetry while jamming with Scottish musicians and dis- covered that, rather than the staid figure she’d always imagined him to be, Burns was a radical with much to say that’s still relevant today. The thirteen-piece Band of Burns includes members of the Odd Beats, The Langan Band, Honeyfeet and PicaPica (see elsewhere this issue) to name but a few, with Dila upfront, offering her dis- tinctively Turkish-flavoured interpretations of Burns songs.


theturbans.co.uk theoddbeats.com donkipper.com


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